Friday, May 18, 2018

Washington D.C. Public Transit System Purchases Fleet of 14 Proterra Electric Buses

Technological innovations in this day and age, especially those in the realm of transportation, have been focusing more and more on green energy. From Tesla's cars to Nikola Corp's trucks, many companies are trying to steadily phase out the necessity of fossil fuels for long-distance travel. The problem with that goal is that, at the moment, green energy sources and vehicles that utilize those types of energy tend to be more expensive. To that end, the companies that focus on electric vehicles usually need some sort of governmental relationship to get off the ground. With Tesla, customers were able to get government rebates/subsidies after purchasing cars like Tesla's Model 3. According to Russ Mitchell's L.A. Times article, Proterra (a manufacturer of electric buses) sold 14 of its vehicles to the Washington, D.C., Circulator transit system earlier this month.

The complete cost of those buses was not reported, but Proterra's buses are known to cost somewhere between $700,000 and $900,000 each, so it's likely that this purchase cost D.C. quite a bit. On the one hand, spending millions of dollars on electric buses may seem exorbitant, but to another perspective, the fleet of buses serves to show millions of diplomats and tourists from around the world that the United States is working on developing technology with lower environmental impacts and better user experience. Though nearly a million dollars per bus is a lot of money, Washington D.C. gets tens of thousands of tourists each day who use the bus system to visit the various landmarks and museums.

Although Proterra is based out of Northern California, the company has a factory on each coast: one in the City of Industry, California, and the other in Greenville, South Carolina. The South Carolina plant has a perfect location to be accessible to the nation's capital, while the California plant is right in the center of all kinds of innovation going on in the state. The East Coast side of the business puts it in the view of politicians and lobbyists who make the decisions regarding public transportation around the country, and the West Coast side of the business has been able to draw from engineers and manufacturers already in the area for work in the aerospace industry.

Proterra doesn't have a monopoly on electric buses, though. California's plethora of skilled workers has made the Los Angeles area a hub for the development of electric buses and other such vehicles. Another company, called BYD, which is based out of China, has a factory in Lancaster. According to their own numbers, BYD has sold at least 722 buses, while Proterra has sold over 546. For such a pricey commodity, both companies seem to be doing relatively well in an industry that is fairly new. Even some universities are switching their bus systems to electric ones. There's no way to tell for sure, but it seems like the trend of electric buses could really take off throughout the nation in the near future.

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